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Hurting Tkachuk Open to Long-Term Return

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Calgary Flames Matthew Tkachuk

With the Calgary Flames season ending in such a disappointing way, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative storylines surrounding the team.

The autopsy of how the season died is likely to play out in print and online for a while. At least until the focus on the NHL draft or free agency become a bigger focus than the fact other teams are playing, and the Flames are not.

One of those storylines is the play of Matthew Tkachuk.

The 24-year-old Calgary Flames star seems to be built for the post-season. He’s a player who engages in the fabric of the game. Bringing a fearless, old-school mentality and a slickly modern skillset to the ice, Tkachuk was expected to be a difference-maker in what could have been a deep Stanley Cup playoff run.

Although he started things off with that trademark piss-and-vinegar approach, throwing big body checks and getting physical early in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Dallas Stars, his play fizzled.

Inconsistent over the course of both the Stars series and the second-round meeting with the Calgary Flames’ biggest rival, Tkachuk didn’t have the same pop he did during his first 100-point NHL regular season.

He scored four times over the 12 games, but three of them came in his Game 1 hat-trick against the hated Oilers. Spread out over the other 11, Tkachuk had one goal and seven points. Six of those were in the first round. In the last four games against the Oilers – all losses – Tkachuk had just one assist and no points over the final three.

That lack of pop may have been affected by a punch.

Tough luck: did injury have hand in performance?

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving confirmed on Saturday that Tkachuk injured a hand in his fight in the first game of the first round. After crushing Stars defenceman John Klingberg against the boards, Michael Raffl aggressively pursued Tkachuk. The Flames agitator accepted. Not much detail was given about the hand injury, but his trademark creativity and accuracy wasn’t nearly what it was in his 42-goal regular season.

“I’m not really someone who would talk about that stuff,” Tkachuk said when asked whether he was dealing with an injury. “If trainers want to sit here and talk about it they can but I doubt they want do that.”

Tkachuk is the last guy to look for excuses. Treliving disclosed the truth about Tkachuk being less than 100 per cent, along with a handful of other Calgary Flames players. Chris Tanev (separated shoulder) is the only one who needs surgery, but Milan Lucic (AC joint), Nikita Zadorov (ribs), Andrew Mangiapane (wrist), and Oliver Kylington (shoulder) were all nursing ailments.

In Tkachuk’s case, Treliving didn’t hesitate when asked if the decision to drop the gloves was one he’d prefer not to see from his 100-point player in the future.

“I would much rather take a player that sometimes you’ve gotta pull the reigns in than you have to brand in the ass to get going,” Treliving said, pulling back with his left hand for emphasis. “You can’t take that part away from him.

“He’s involved in the game so that part’s what I think makes him a little unique, quite frankly, and you don’t ever want to take that part (away). But he’s smart enough to know that line and straddles it pretty well.”

Flames looking to make strides next spring

Considering he put points up in six of the seven games against Dallas, you can’t point to the hand injury as the only reason for his lack of positive performances against the Oilers. The entire Calgary Flames roster underperformed in shocking fashion.

But the team will need him to show the same form he did for most of the season if they want to return to the second round a year from now.

“I think that it’s important for us to take what happened and build off it,” Tkachuk said. “But I do think we got a little taste, just enough of a taste where you can use it for as much motivation as you want because you’re so close yet so far.”

There are still many question marks about next season. For one, his linemate Johnny Gaudreau is an impending unrestricted free agent. Tkachuk is a restricted free agent this summer. He has to be qualified at $9 million for next season but needs a long-term deal to ensure he doesn’t get tempted to leave as an unrestricted free agent the following year.

Tkachuk says he’s open to a long-term deal this summer.

Tkachuk open to long-term deal with Flames

“Absolutely,” he said quickly. “I’ve loved it here. I’ve grown up here. The more I think about It, I came here and didn’t really know anything about Calgary. I didn’t know anything about Western Canada. My mom’s from Winnipeg, so I guess that’s as far west as I knew and kind of just fell in love with it here.”

Tkachuk says the return of a more normal experience after the pandemic lockdowns has made him appreciate the city and Calgary Flames fans even more.

“How appreciative people are here of our team and how much passion they have for it, that’s something that we were lacking for those few years,” he said.

“(I) just kind of love the people here … how happy that the team makes them feel, and how great they’ve made my life here, just the people in general.

“And I’m not just talking people with the team. Whether it’s trainers or coaches, management, players, just people in the city. People that live in my apartment or that I see on any given day.

“So, yeah, to answer your question, I would be very open (to a long term deal).”

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